Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture

            The issue of nature versus nurture has been a pertinent one since the advent of philosophical practices in the society. The problem has been the subject of concern to both philosophers and the modern day scientists based on the discussion whether an individual’s inherent behavioral traits were dependent on hereditary aspects or on environmental conditions that the individual faces during development. The term nurture is therefore used to describe both the social and environmental conditions that an individual was exposed to during the growth period. Nurture is therefore used to describe inborn traits of a given individual that is genetically transmitted to him or her through birth.

For the better part of history, many reasons has been forwarded to explain the development of human behavior. Various theories have been forwarded in the attempt to explain why human beings depict various behavioral characteristics. Major theories on behavior are based on psychological and sociological explanations. The two principle explanations given towards these issues contrast each other and are not in any way compatible. Following this thought, it is held that the nature vs. nurture debate began with the conflicting psychological and sociological approach theories. Over the years, the debate have been swaying from either side with each philosophical school bringing forth popular explanations in support of the given positions. Currently, arguments from both sides of the debate are used to explain and study human behavior (Ashcraft 18).

History determines Plato and Aristotle was the earliest documented philosophers to having endeavored towards conclusive studies in the arena of human behavior. The primary question as to whether behavioral patterns are attributable to psychological or sociological aspects can be traced back to as early as 350 BC. Plato was of the view that behavior and knowledge are inherently achieved and thus the viewpoint that an individual is born with such traits. An acclaimed author, Fiona Cowie, in her 1999 paper highlighted Plato as the pioneer of this given school of thought claiming the character of mental furniture is mainly determined by inherent or natural aspects as opposed to environmental ones (Cowie 23).

Following this viewpoint, Plato helded that an individual possessed all the necessary knowledge from the point of birth, although the environment played a role in the developmental process. Note that however, the environmental role was too minor an issue for any significant substantiation. Plato argued that the environment did not impart new information or knowledge within an individual but rather played the role of reminding the individual regarding acquired information. Although Plato’s works on the issue are not highly used currently, he is credited for laying a strong foundation for other researchers to pursue (Brooks 4).

On the other hand, Aristotle posited a different and opposing view about human behavioral characteristics. He formulated the idea that human beings were born with what was termed as a tabular rassa, literally a blank sheet. Behavioral patterns, relevant knowledge and information was being acquired later through experiences (Deutschmann 12). Unlike Plato, Aristotle was of the belief that human beings were born devoid of any inherent knowledge; it is only acquired through interactions with the physical world. Apparently, very few scientists align to Aristotle’s belief. Nevertheless, the idea of the environment playing a crucial role has influenced many empiricists throughout history (Deutschmann 12).

Psychoanalytic theorists have brought forth theories to justify the idea of that human personality is developed over the course of ones lifetime including Horney and Adler. Horney was of the view that social cultural factors had immense effects on the development of a human being’s personality. He stressed that during the early stages of life, an individual’s need for security is crucial for the personality development. Additionally, Horney is of the thought that an individual could only attain full potential after the satisfaction of the various basic needs. Horney also argues that anxieties or worries are a common occurrence to humanity; they can be handled through three main strategies. These are, isolating from the society, drawing closer to the society or working against the society. Individuals who generally isolate themselves from the community become more independent and hence self-reliant. Those who draw closer to the society do so in an attempt to seek love and support while those who work against the people usually become competitive and domineering.

Horney further notes that persons who develop a sense of security during the early stages of life usually incorporate all the three strategies harmonically. Those who fail to develop a sense of security in life tend to depend on one main strategy over the rest hence ending up being too dependent, extremely aggressive, or excessively independent. This argument therefore indicates that the development of an individual’s personality is highly dependent on the manner of associations between the individual and the society, or rather the environment (Cowie 49).

Alfred Adler on the other hand also developed another theory concerning the development of an individual’s personality. His theory differed with that of Horney on the view that every individual bears an inherent “uniqueness” that differentiates him or her from other individuals. Adler is of the thought that individuals are not necessarily controlled by their unconscious desires as claimed by Freud but rather every individual has the capacity and ability to take control of his or her own life. In addition, Adler argued that environmental factors played a crucial role in the development of an individual’s personality.

Further, Adler’s theory held that every individual aims for supremacy in terms of surviving or adapting to the prevailing environmental factors. A feeling of superiority is developed during the initial growth phases as a counteraction to being always in contact with persons who are older and more powerful. As the superior personality is developed, the individual attempts to counter inferiority feelings by interacting with individuals that are more superior. Adler’s theory therefore supports the view that the development of an individual’s personality is highly dependent on the way the individual interacts with the society or the environment.

I am personally skilled in taking up research work in the field of mathematics. This has led me to conduct many mathematical researches on different psychological subjects with one being on the research as to whether nature or nurture is responsible for the development of an individual’s personality or character traits have employed both identical and fraternal twins. The investigation involved studying twins who had been separated at birth and nurtured in different households under varying environmental conditions. Results indicated that identical twins are one hundred percent similar genetically whereas fraternal twins are at least fifty percent similar. The identical twins therefore offered exact genetic replicas to the study in all questioned areas. An intrinsic weakness however in the results was noted in its failure to conclusively deal with the debate issue as they gave conflicting inferences. Some of the studies exhibited astonishing resemblances on the identical twins thereby supporting the nature theory. On the other hand, other investigations offered considerable differences thereby supporting the nurture theories.

In cases where the fraternal twins were concerned, several similarities were noted but none could offer conclusive evidence to the nature theory (Fujita 20). For instance, one of the studies that gave an inclination to the nurture theories was conducted using students from different learning institutions. The study involved schools that were well equipped and had an optimal number of instructors. Control schools in the investigation studied with dilapidated infrastructure, low teacher to student ratios and inadequate learning facilities. The study revealed that students from the school that was better equipped performed much better as opposed to their counterparts. However, there were certain students in the poor schools who outperformed learners from the better-equipped institutions (Devlin 97).

In conclusion, it is apparently evident it is not possible to have a conclusive answer as to what is exclusively responsible for the development of an individual’s behavior. The more studies are made on the issue of nature vs. nurture, the more evidence is obtained on the irrelevance and illogicality of the noted differences. Scientific investigations indicate that there are certain behavioral patterns attributable to genetic compositions within an individual whereas others are simply acquired through an individual’s interaction with the environment. It is therefore more prudent to take a neutral stand by stating that both genetics and an individual’s interaction with the environment play equalized roles in the development of an individual’s traits and behavioral patterns. The genetic make-up will mainly affect a human’s personality and behavior, but the environment tends to mould the way an individual reacts to different stimuli. There however, lacks a definite differentiation on the extent to which genes and the environment determine an individual’s behavioral patterns.


Works Cited

Ashcraft, McDonnell. Fundamentals of Cognition. New York: Longman, 1998. Print.

Brooks, James. The process of parenting. Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print.

Cowie, Fischer. What’s Within? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.

Devlin, Brooks. Intelligence, Genes, and Success. New York: Copernicus, 1997. Print.

Deutschmann, Linda. Deviance and Social Control Third Edition. Scarborough: Nelson Thomson Learning, 2002. Print.

Fujita, Frank. Nature vs. Nurture: Discovering Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers, 2000. Print.


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